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Yoel Romero vs. Tim Kennedy: An Early Head-to-Toe Breakdown

Nathan McCarterFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2016

Yoel Romero vs. Tim Kennedy: An Early Head-to-Toe Breakdown

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    UFC 178 will play host to a big-time middleweight tilt between No. 6-ranked contender Tim Kennedy and No. 11-ranked Yoel Romero on September 27.

    Kennedy is riding a four-fight win streak into the matchup with three of the wins coming inside the Octagon. Romero posts his own four-fight win streak with all four coming under the UFC umbrella.

    The middleweight division is in flux, and that will open the door for new challengers to the title. Champion Chris Weidman will be seeking new opponents in the near future, and this middleweight clash will put the winner in the cross hairs.

    The former Strikeforce middleweights are on the brink of breaking through to the upper echelon. UFC 178 will see one of them complete that mission.

    Let's break down this important middleweight bout.

Striking

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    Romero made a stunning UFC debut in just 92 seconds in 2013 with a flying=knee knockout. He backed up that performance with two more knockout performances.

    The former Olympic wrestler has big power in his strikes, but he is still learning the game. Kennedy is more polished.

    Kennedy's striking is more varied, technical and precise. Those three things will give him the edge on the feet. The former Strikeforce title contender also can take a big shot and keep coming forward. He is a bad matchup for Romero on the feet.

    Watch for Kennedy to mix up his striking against Romero to keep him guessing.

    Edge: Kennedy

Grappling

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    Kennedy is a solid grappler, but Romero is world-class.

    In the MMA world where the term "world class" is thrown around a lot, Romero is legitimately just that. He is an Olympic medalist with wins against the legendary Cael Sanderson. That says it all.

    The issue for Romero is that he has not always transitioned his elite-level wrestling into the cage. He needs to be on point against the next level of competition.

    Kennedy has very good takedown defense. Romero cannot simply outmuscle him to the canvas. He will need to set up his takedowns. Romero has the skills to complete takedown after takedown, but he must do it with a plan and not rush it.

    Edge: Romero

Submissions

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    Kennedy has the edge on the mat. He is the more skilled fighter offensively and defensively.

    He has proved his defensive ability against elite grapplers. Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Roger Gracie could not submit him. On the flip side, Kennedy has finished eight of his 18 victories via submission.

    If Romero can implement his wrestling, he will be in a better position throughout the fight, but he will have a difficult time catching Kennedy.

    Romero will have to be mindful when playing on the mat against Kennedy. The Cuban may slip up and get caught.

    Edge: Kennedy

X-Factors

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    Kennedy's X-Factor: Fight IQ

    Kennedy is one of the best fighters at implementing a game plan and making adjustments when necessary. His fight IQ is high. That will play a big role against Romero.

    Romero is still growing in the sport. He is also unpredictable. He loves to scrap and throw a variety of techniques and still has an elite wrestling game to fall back on.

    If Kennedy can out-think Romero, he should walk out of UFC 178 with a win.

     

    Romero's X-Factor: Aggressiveness

    The Cuban wrestler is an ultra-aggressive fighter. He goes for it.

    His aggressiveness also leads to mistakes. For as good as his wrestling pedigree is, he is also vulnerable to takedown, as he has just a 60 percent takedown defense. His aggressiveness also depletes his gas tank.

    He will need his cardio against Kennedy.

    Romero has to pick his spots to be aggressive against Kennedy. If he rushes his offense, he will lose. Kennedy has all the tools to catch him on the feet or the mat.

Prediction

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    This fight will be very telling for Romero. At 37 years of age he does not have much time left to make a run at the gold. A win over Kennedy will move him closer to a title shot.

    If Romero fights smart, he could win this fight by decision. His wrestling can stifle Kennedy. I just don't believe the Cuban can go 15 minutes without making mistakes against the former Strikeforce contender.

    Romero will take too many chances trying to finish Kennedy, and that will tire him out. Kennedy has shown time and again the ability to go strong for 25 minutes, and this is just a three-round battle. Once Romero wears down, Kennedy will take over.

    Kennedy will earn the stoppage late.

    Prediction: Kennedy defeats Romero by TKO in the third round

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